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Google debuts tool for measuring heart, respiratory rate with a phone (Updated)

Update: The new feature is now rolling out to Pixel phones through the Google Fit app.

Published onMarch 9, 2021

Google Pixel 5 Camera 1
  • A new Google Fit heart and respiratory rate measurement tool is here.
  • It only requires your smartphone camera to work.
  • The new tools are rolling out to Pixel phones first but will come to other Android phones in the future.

Update: March 9, 2021 (12:20 AM ET): Google is now rolling out its camera-based heart-rate and respiratory tracking feature to Pixel phones. While Pixel phones will be the first devices to sport the feature, it will roll out to “more Android devices in the future,” according to Google. Read on for a more detailed explanation of the feature below.

Original article: February 4, 2021 (11:38 AM ET): If you want to measure your heart or respiratory rate, you have a multitude of options. Fitness trackers and smartwatches will usually do the trick, or you can invest in specific medical-grade tools to do the job. For your heart rate, you can even just do an old fashioned pulse measurement.

Related: The best fitness trackers you can get right now

What if you could do both tests with just your smartphone? That’s what Google thinks would be best. Starting next month, the company is rolling out a Google Fit heart rate measurement tool alongside a similar tool to measure your respiratory rate. Both tools will only require a smartphone to work — no other gear necessary.

Google Fit heart rate and respiratory rate

To measure your heart rate, all you’ll need to do is place your finger over the rear lens of your phone’s camera. We’ve seen this technique used for years through apps on the Play Store. The Samsung Galaxy S5 even touted this as a major feature way back in 2014, albeit with a dedicated heart-rate sensor.

As for the respiratory rate, that’s a bit more complicated. You need to prop up your phone so the camera can record you breathing comfortably for about 30 seconds. Using the footage of your chest movements as you breathe, Google Fit will tell you how many breaths you’re taking. This info can be helpful for discovering health issues or supplying it to your doctor.

Related: Google Fit guide: Everything you need to know

Google claims it took great pains to make sure the respiratory test will work for everyone, regardless of your body shape, age, or skin tone.

As usual, neither the Google Fit heart rate test nor the respiratory test should be used as a proper medical diagnosis. You will need to consult a licensed physician for anything official.

These new tests will only work in the Google Fit app on Pixel devices at first. Access to the tests will land next month, likely alongside the expected Pixel feature drop, the first for 2021. Google says the tests will work on other phones in the future.